Custody issues are stressful enough, having to communicate with your spouse or former spouse over them can be a minefield. Being expected to communicate and coordinate schedules with someone that you may have a contentious relationship is at times difficult and at other times impossible. Fortunately technology is available to make communications and coordination easier, and it is increasingly being applauded by lawyers and judges.
Technology also enables the non custodial parent to have more seamless access to their children, enhancing relationships. Online custody management tools, Skype and cell phones have revolutionized how former couples communicate, enabling parents to make arrangements without having face to face dispute and facilitating parent/child relationships. It is a win/win for the children and the parents. Unfortunately, if you aren’t tech savvy the prospect of depending on technology to manage your child custody calendar, medical expenses, communications with your former spouse, communications with your children, child support management, etc may feel daunting.
In helping my clients navigate the waters of the divorce process both before and after, I consider the technology piece a major boon to assist in keeping anxiety levels low during the process. In addition to learning coping skills and interventions to address the inevitable life stress that comes with this transition, getting connected with technology to help make life easier is now a standard part of what I do.
Fortunately there are people who are well versed in this technology and are able to get you set up in a way that will facilitate good record keeping for the court, interaction with your child’s school, coaches, etc, and communication with your former spouse. In my psychotherapy practice specializing in pre and post divorce issues this is commonplace. By taking some of the conflict out of divorce by making communication more collaborative and cooperative we help the parents feel more secure and less anxious. More secure and less anxious parents make for more secure and less anxious children, which in the end, is what really matters.
If you are having difficulty adjusting during the pre or post divorce process, or if you just need some support around the technology, please reach out to a qualified professional to help make the transition a time of growth and discovery for you.
Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist specializing in pre and post divorce issues and anxiety. For more information please call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.
Going through a divorce is tough, really tough. Going through a divorce during the holidays is excruciating. Everything you have known about the holidays changes, and if you have children it is complicated exponentially. There are few situations that inspire more anxiety than figuring holiday schedules for children and planning how you will fill the hours while they are with their other parent. Even if you do not have children, the holidays represent a death of the norm.
Grieving is normal and natural during this season. Your singleness is magnified by images of happy couples gathered with their happy children around the tree, while you try to figure how you will pay for gifts and groceries on an income that has been decimated. Not spending holiday time with the family that had become like your own can be a painful part of the loss that no one acknowledges.
There is hope for you if you are going through a divorce during the holidays. Despite the fact that nothing feels secure until the divorce is final, you can learn to thrive during the ambiguity. I know that thriving may sound like a stretch. If you are like many, you spend much of the time curled up in bed trying to sleep the time away until the divorce is final and all the arrangements are in place. Learning to live mindfully can help you begin to appreciate your life again. Even though it may feel like you have had a giant bomb thrown into your life, learning to live in the moment can help you get out of bed, put your feet on the floor, and start all over again.
The first step is learning to breathe again. Yes, you heard me, breathe. When is the last time that you took a really deep breath? When we are anxious and grieving we actually forget to breathe. When we focus our attention on our breath, and really notice how luxurious it feels to throw our heads back and take a deep belly breath, we become engaged in the process of life again.
Remembering the little things that we love about the holidays is a big step towards learning to thrive again. A glass of eggnog in front of the fire, the twinkle of the lights at night, the smell of the Christmas tree, the feel of the winter chill on your cheeks when you step outside in the morning are all precious moments if we notice them. It is REALLY noticing the little things, the special moments, that make for quality holidays. When you string together several special moments, you have created a lovely day. Once you have created a lovely day, then you have the pattern for creating a delightful holiday season.
Making new memories is another way to help you flourish during the season. Time with friends, a chance to travel, shopping or seeing a newly released movie can all become thrilling adventures if you reframe how you expect to experience the holidays. Engaging with other single people or joining in celebration with another family can begin a tradition that will provide you with beautiful memories. A nice bottle of wine and your presence may be all that is required in return.
If you are having a really difficult time I recommend that you volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. There are people everywhere who are in need of encouragement, of a warm body to remind them that they still matter, that they are important. It is amazing how connecting with those less fortunate than yourself can give you perspective on your blessings.
The game plan for thriving through the holidays as you are going through a divorce is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. Keep your mind in the moment. Do not think about the future, do not dwell on the past. Take a deep breath, and realize that right now, this very minute, is enough.
Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in pre and post divorce support and anxiety. To find out more information call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.
Anxious thoughts can hold you captive and keep you on a roller coaster of worry and fear. It seems that you are carried along by a cadre of thoughts over which you have no control. These thoughts wreak havoc on your mind and body. Your body bears the brunt of experiencing the hormonal cascade of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol that come with being triggered by a thought that releases anxious energy into the body. The mind is assaulted by being occupied with circular thinking, inability to sleep and idling at a high speed for long amounts of time.
Many people believe that by rehearsing anxious thoughts they are preparing themselves in case bad things happen. It gives them a sense of control to rehearse a negative outcome and how they would react in a variety of scenarios. In reality they are ruining the present by engaging in thoughts and feelings that in no way control the future nor prepare them for what is coming. Anyone who has ever rehearsed the death of someone they love in advance so that they are prepared when the time comes can tell you that it is completely ineffectual, and it robs the days you do have with a loved one of joy, because you are constantly in that space of pseudo-mourning, when instead you could be in a shared place of peace with that loved one while they are still alive.
There are several effective interventions to address these anxious, negative thoughts. First, realizing that anxiety puts you in a position where you are living in the future. You are literally making up scenarios in your imagination and believing in them. Logically it is helpful to realize that it is just as likely that the opposite, more positive scenario may happen. When you realize that you are giving your imagination the power to control how you think and feel, you realize that you have the power to shift the scenario you are envisioning to one that brings peaceful feelings instead.
If you feel you must worry, creating a container for it can give you some relief. Scheduling “worry time” is effective in freeing up some energy for the rest of your day. Tell yourself all day that “now is not the time to worry, I will do that this afternoon from 4:00-4:30.” is a powerful way to clear most of your day of the anxious thoughts that plague you. It is a step towards reclaiming your power over your thoughts.
Allowing your thoughts to pass through your mind with acceptance is another way. Recognizing that “Oh, there is a thought” without judgement that it is good or bad, without becoming engaged with the story behind it is helpful. Notice the thought with your awareness and then pulling your mind back to the present is key to mindfully accepting what your mind is doing. To bring yourself back to the present, engage your senses and focus on the stimuli around you. Notice the feel of your feet on the floor, the feel of the chair to your back, the smell of the coffee on the table, the sound of the birds chirping outside of your window. This mindful presence is the optimal state for all of us to function. If you can master staying present and allowing the thoughts to come and go without interacting with them you will have come a long way towards peace.
Questioning the thoughts is a way to confront their validity and to help you know whether they are worth wasting your time on. Are you worrying about something that cannot be helped? This seems futile. If your thought seems like it could have a solution, brainstorming with a loved one to create action steps may be helpful, rather that ruminating alone without a goal. Once you have an action plan, then executing the steps will give you a sense of purpose. Instead of sitting helplessly wringing your hands, you are accomplishing something and shifting the anxious energy to an energy of motivation and achievement.
It seems the most difficult thoughts to address are the thoughts of the unknown. What if you have to wait on results for medical tests, or wait two weeks to see if you actually achieved the pregnancy you have been longing for, or what if you don’t know if your loved one is telling you the truth about their pornography or drug usage? These situations can consume you and destroy your quality of life if you let them. Engaging in activities of “distress tolerance” can go a long way towards helping you thrive during uncertainty. Positive forms of distraction can busy the mind and keep you engaged in activities that bring you pleasure. Going to a movie, hanging out with supportive friends and gardening are all ways to shift the thoughts away from the anxious situation. Contribution is a very effective way to distract the mind. Donating time to a cause you care about, and doing an activity that contributes to a higher purpose are good ways to distract, but so are doing someone a favor or making someone a nice card for a “just because” occasion. Or writing a letter to a loved one, telling them how much you care. Contributing not only helps distract you from your own painful emotions but it helps one build a sense of self respect and gives meaning and purpose to your life. Doing things for others can be very rewarding, especially when the act is unsolicited. Generating opposite emotions helps. Watching a funny movie when you feel sad or anxious, or listening to soothing music serves as a contrast and helps diffuse the thoughts and emotions.
Addressing the energy of anxiety in the body is another way to free the thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are responding to anxious energy that has become trapped in the body. Emotions are energy in our body that literally want to be expressed or squeezed out. When we refuse to acknowledge them or to address them the energy becomes trapped, putting us on that roller coaster of “what am I going to do?” Noticing where the energy exists, allowing it to be there without judgment and being curious about what it wants to do are the ways to shift the energy and to allow it to release. Drop your awareness to where you are experiencing the energy in the body, and noticing how it behaves, with judging it helps you become familiar with its personality. Energy comes in waves. Notice how it wants to act. Notice the area around the energy. Are you squeezing against it, trying to keep its unpleasantness confined? This is when it becomes a problem. Visualize yourself expanding around the energy and creating a space for it to pass through your body. Visualize the waves traveling from one side of you and out the other side as you practice deep cleansing breaths. Controlling the energy frees your mind to think of other things.
It is not necessary to be held captive to anxious thoughts and feelings. There are interventions that can help. Invest the time to learn and practice these interventions and you will see your quality of life improve today!
Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in the treatment of anxiety. To find out more please see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com
You have just found out that your kid is addicted to drugs or alcohol. This kid could be a young teen or an adult child, it does not matter, finding out that they are owned by addiction is news dreaded by any parent. You feel confused, terrified, furious and lost. You don’t know where to turn. I urge you to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and slow your thoughts. It is time to make an action plan. There are things you can do to make this experience less traumatic for everyone.The first and hardest step is to watch your mouth. Frustration, fury, feeling manipulated and lied to can cause you to say things you will regret. It is easy to lash out at your addict and say words that will never be forgotten. These words will color your relationship forever and can affect how your addict sees you and themselves for the rest of their lives. Taking that deep breath and getting centered can give you a moment to think before you speak. At a time when you feel like you are living inside of the fear, this is harder than it sounds.As a parent you are used to being able to kiss it and make it better, to “fix it”. You cannot fix this. There are few situations more terrifying for a parent than having absolutely no ability to help your child. Many parents feel guilty, blaming their kid’s drug use on the fact that they missed a soccer game once when the addict was a child, didn’t potty train them sensitively enough or had a contentious divorce. Once that toxic guilt kicks in the addiction insidiously manipulates the parent-child relationship. A guilty parent will twist themselves into a pretzel trying to make things right. Co dependence kicks in and the parent becomes more concerned with the needs of the addict than their own needs. People who are codependent often take on the role as a martyr; they constantly put others’ needs before their own and in doing so forget to take care of themselves. When it comes to arguments, codependent people also tend to set themselves up as the “victim”. When they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty. I heard it put one time, “Do you have to take your child’s temperature to see how you feel?” If your answer to this is yes, then you need to take action to address the codependence.
The next step is developing some healthy boundaries. Telling your child “I completely trust in your ability to handle this situation” conveys trust that you believe in their competence, states that you know the problem belongs to them, and empowers them to take action instead of sitting helplessly while you jump through hoops that do not belong to you.
If your child lives at home, defining a zero tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use is vital. Unless you are willing for your child to kill themselves under your roof, zero tolerance is an important first step. You can buy urine drug tests or alcohol breath tests from the drug store or online. Get them and use them on a regular basis and at random times as well. Know that addicts learn how to work around drug screens. If you feel like your addict is using, seek outside testing from a family doctor or treatment center. If the test is positive, I urge you to take action immediately and provide the addict the opportunity to go elsewhere to engage in drug or alcohol using activities. There is no reason your family should have to stand by helplessly watching your loved one self destruct. Siblings can be scarred for life at witnessing ongoing family conflict and using behavior. Many parents will draw the line in the sand and when the addict is caught using will forgive and forgive again when faced with promises and tears. Stand firm. The sooner your addict faces consequences for his/her actions the sooner they can begin facing up to their problem and getting help. Loving the child with boundaries is what will help bring them back to you. Do not allow them to abuse your boundaries to the point where you cannot tap into the love anymore.
Making distinction between the child you love and the addiction is so important. Addiction is a beast that takes up residence inside of your child. It is a beast that will steal drugs from your medicine cabinet, money from your wallet, will lie to you without a blink and will “use” you to the extent that you will allow the using behavior. When the beast rears its head it is helpful to see it as an illness and not as an infraction against yourself and your family. It really has very little to do with you and everything to do with your addict and their illness. Making the distinction allows you to love the child and hate the beast. This is still the same person you rocked as a baby, whose boo boos you kissed and whom you tucked in at night. Do not lose sight of this.
Mindfulness can be so helpful in allowing you to keep peace during this process. Mindfulness is the process of paying attention, without judgment to the present moment. So often when we are feeling fearful or anxious we are actually making up scenarios in our imagination and believing in them. We are living in the future. Radical focus on the present moment, the breath, the physical sensations of the cool air in the room, the feel of your feet on the floor, the sounds coming from the stereo, the smells from the kitchen, bring you into the here and now and allow you to become grounded. Noticing the anxious energy vibrating in your body without resistant is important. That energy becomes trapped when we resist it, and we are stuck with an uncomfortable knot in our stomach or chest. Just noticing that the energy is there and visualizing it flowing through your body instead of resisting it goes a long way towards helping us become more comfortable.
If your child is willing to pursue treatment then your role will be a little easier. If you have insurance, easier still. There are many competent treatment centers in your area that are structured in intensity according to the stage of treatment your child needs. Does your kid need to medically detox? Inpatient medical services may be appropriate for a few days or a week to safely address his/her issues. If not then a few days at an inpatient facility to get your addict stabilized might be in order. There are facilities that have Intensive Outpatient programs that last 4-5 hours a day that consist of individual counseling, family therapy, group therapy and psychoeducation. There are many different philosophies of treatment as well. 12-Step programs are probably the most well known, but there are readiness for change, relapse prevention, enthusiastic sobriety to name a few. You could completely overwhelmed at all of the choices. The job of the treatment center is to help you to navigate the myriad of choices and to educate you on the philosophy of treatment used by the facility and what that will look like for your child. The one thing to remember is that the most important factor in what type of treatment will work for you addict is his commitment to sobriety.
Until your addict agrees to seek help it is important for you and your family to engage in radical self care. This consists of creating an atmosphere of love and understanding that you are all going through stress, and that you are all still learning. Going beyond what you normally need to do to recharge your batteries and to encourage each other is warranted now. If it is a little extra exercise, a nap in the afternoon or an evening in front of the fire just sharing your heart with others who are aware of your family struggle, I urge you to create a gentle, supportive home that allows you to begin to heal.
With every difficult situation in life comes a gift. Look for the gift that addiction will bring to your family. Whether it is better communication, a more honest look at who you all are or eventually having a desire to give back, it always comes with a gift. Never give up believing in your child. Never lose sight of the future you held when you rocked them as a baby. Never give up hope. Keep the porch lights on…
If you need support in navigating the emotions surrounding your loved one’s addiction feel free to contact me at 770-789-0847, email me at email@example.com or see my website www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.